Sep. 19—Naimah Saccoh barreled into the middle of the box and with an eloquent touch, put home a well-placed cross pass. At that point nearing the 16-minute mark of the second half, the senior’s goal barely mattered. It ballooned John Carroll’s lead to three goals, sealing what was ultimately a 5-3 win over host Fallston.
What happened next showcased the true spirit of John Carroll girls soccer (2-3). Not only did Saccoh share in the excitement with her teammates on the field, but the entire bench stormed toward their corner for a full-team frenzy.
The visitors never once saw their energy sour. There were no hushed moments on that side for all 80 minutes.
“You don’t teach that. I don’t tell them what to do,” John Carroll coach Hayley Howe said. “What I tell them about is to enjoy each other’s talents. This group is a family. It’s all about being excited that your sister just nutmegged somebody. Be excited that energy is on the field because when you get in, that’s your energy that you’re bringing. A lot of it is just culture that’s been a decade in the making.”
Emmie King was first to strike, burying the game’s opening goal with a boot from just beyond the fringes of the box. Her on-field teammates went ballistic in a mad rush up the field. But when back-to-back Class 1A state champion Fallston (3-3) scored two straight goals in the first half, it was continually difficult to keep the Patriots bench crew subdued.
“Turn me up [fill in any name],” they’d yell. With arms wrapped over each other’s shoulders they’d chant, “Ooh, ooh, ah, ah, ay, ay turn me up!” On nearly missed shots they’d still reach toward the sky complemented by screeching vocal chords.
At halftime, a neck-and-neck contest tied at 2 wasn’t enough to rattle their cages. Players danced and hugged and continued to bring a unique energy that carried over to a lopsided second half.
King recorded her second of two goals soon after the break. That gave the Patriots a lead they rode to the final horn. When King’s shot pierced the net, the junior defender went with the Michael Jordan shrug in the direction of her bench cruising back up the field.
At times even a conventional smooth pass around midfield elicited sideline roars.
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“I think it lets them look to the next play,” Howe said. “I think it allows them to not stress about making a mistake because their team is right there pulling them out of the muck. In the play, I think they want their team to cheer for them and they can think, ‘How can I make the next play? How can I build on it and keep that energy going?'”
Tuesday night was a tale of two halves. The Cougars largely dominated the attack despite what the scoreboard said. But they came out in the second half flat, unable to match the energy of the eventual victors.
Ruby Reddel scored one unassisted goal in the loss. Then it was Sarah Farally two minutes later who sped past her defender to meet a through ball, finishing a perfectly placed shot from the right side to the goal’s opposite post. Freshman Alayna Williams was awarded the assist. And Ellie Turner capitalized on a penalty kick, cutting into the deficit late.
“I talked to the girls at halftime and just told them that coming out in the second half they were going to press very hard,” Fallston coach Jon Salbeck said. “They’re a very good team when it comes to pressing. Second half, honestly, we just didn’t show up. I commend them. They came out and took it to us in the second half. We can’t have that.”
Salbeck was nonetheless impressed with his team’s resilience to fight through an arduous back half. He admitted to feeling their backline was uncharacteristically disorganized at times and similarly got away from their strengths of playing possessive soccer.
Ultimately, it was John Carroll’s liveliness that imbued the on-field performance.
“It’s a small fire and every player adds some kindling,” Howe said. “Then all of a sudden we lit the match in the second half and we had some fun.”